Whether you’re carrying heavy packages, playing with your kids or engaged in your favorite sport, a strong back comes in handy. Here’s a seven-exercise sequence designed to help make your back stronger and more flexible.
The Wall Squat is a great way to exercise muscles throughout your back in addition to your glutes, hamstrings and quads. It also promotes greater balance.
1. Stand with your back flat against a wall, heels planted shoulder-width apart and about two feet out from the wall. Your arms should be pointed downward and flat against the wall.
2. Engage your core, then bend your knees until they’re at a 90° angle.
3. Pause and briefly rest in the position as your thighs become parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position by pushing up through your heels.
Cat/Cow (technically two yoga poses but almost always combined) enhances spinal flexibility while enhancing posture and balance.
1. Get onto all fours, shoulders above wrists and hips above ankles; your back should be in a neutral position.
2. Go into Cow Pose by inhaling and simultaneously lifting your bottom while pressing your chest forward, letting the abdomen sink towards the floor, gazing straight ahead. Don’t hunch your shoulders.
3. Go into Cat Pose by exhaling and rounding your spine while tucking in your tailbone, releasing your head towards the floor (don’t force your chin to your chest).
4. Go back and forth between the two poses for up to 10 breaths.
Sometimes, less is more...as with this exercise, in which a limited motion can pay big dividends in terms of shoulder flexibility and strength while improving your posture.
1. Get down on all fours and go into a high plank position: arms fully extended above your hands, knees off the ground, toes touching the floor, body in a straight line.
2. Tighten your glutes and core muscles. Then pinch your shoulder blades together, as if you’re trying to hold onto a pencil, before moving them outward. It’s a small movement; your arms remain extended.
3. Hold each rep for up to 5 seconds; perform up to 10 reps.
Fly into Superman to keep your back flexible; this pose also stretches all the major muscle groups in the body.
1. Lie on your stomach on a mat with your legs extended, toes pointing away from your shins, arms extended overhead with palms facing each other. Relax your head to align it with your spine.
2. Exhale, contract your core muscles and slowly raise both legs a few inches off the floor while simultaneously raising both arms a few inches off the floor; avoid any rotation in the limbs, arching in the back or raising of the head. Hold this position briefly.
3. Gently inhale and lower legs and arms back to the starting position without any movement in the low back or hips.
This exercise works the upper and lower back as well as the shoulders, glutes and hamstrings.
1. Lie on your stomach on a mat with your legs extended, toes pointing away from your shins, arms extended overhead with palms the ground. Relax your head to align it with your spine.
2. While contracting your back muscles and glutes, raise your upper body off the floor into a slight backbend. Tuck your chin so you are looking at the floor.
3. Simultaneously lift your right arm and left foot about a foot off the floor. Then, as you lower your limbs, simultaneously raise your left arm and your right foot.
Knee to Chest
This exercise helps stretch your lower back and pelvis while promoting a sense of calm.
1. Lie on your back, legs and arms extended.
2. Inhale; as you exhale, draw your knees towards your chest, wrapping your hands around them. (If you can, place your forearms over your shins and grab your elbows.) Keep your back flat on the mat, drawing your shoulder blades towards your waist.
3. Tuck your chin slightly and hold for up to a minute. Release from the pose while exhaling.
Going into Bridge will help stretch your spine while strengthening the muscles of your back and legs. It’s also a good way to open your hips, which can stiffen if you sit all day.
1. Lie on your back, then bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart on the mat.
2. Put your arms flat on the floor by your sides with your palms against the ground, and spread your fingers.
3. Lift your pelvic region off the ground; don’t let the buttocks sag. Keep your shoulders and head on the floor. Hold for 5 seconds, then release.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.